SS American Memorial and Lodge, 450 Naumann Rd, Seguin

Since this location was on the Seguin Tour of Homes in 2013, it has evolved into one of the most active military and veteran R&R Retreat sites in the country. Under construction in 2013, the Memorial building was completed and dedicated on July 3, 2014, using 100% donated labor and funds. Since 2013, it has seen over 15,000 visitors: civilians, veterans, non-profits and active duty military who have enjoyed the beauty and solitude of this River Retreat.

On the tour this year will be the SS American Memorial building, the SS American Rathskeller wine cellar, the 80-year-old Lazy U Ranch Lodge (now known as the Armed Forces Chaplaincy Respite Care Lodge), as well as the manicured two-acre memorial grounds. The Memorial building honors the history of our veteran’s sacrifices, depicted through a unique visual experience of rare memorabilia and commissioned paintings. Originally built to provide a place of solitude and decompression for our wounded veterans, the Memorial building has now evolved into an inspirational and educational experience, teaching the history of American sacrifices to area schools, churches, Boy & Girl Scouts, FFA/ROTC, numerous civic organizations, etc.

The Memorial building was originally built by World War II Veteran Jim Ulbrich (who is now 92 years old and is scheduled to be a docent). He built the walls by hand out of Texas road base (crushed limestone), using the same construction method as early Seguin settlers, often referred to as “limecrete”. Son-In-Law Craig Russell and his submariner shipmates spearheaded the finish-out of this umique building starting in 2012, utilizing a nautical theme that includes fixtures, doors and portal windows original to naval ships. It houses a 100-year-old, twenty-two-foot stained glass bar back, two sandstone fireplaces and a basement. Most importantly, original memorabilia and commissioned art depicts significant battles and events that shaped our country’s history and reminds us of the sacrifices made to ensure the freedoms we enjoy today, in the midst of our nation’s longest war. No photographs are allowed in the Memorial building and all head covers must be removed upon entry to one of the nation’s only private “living” war memorials.

The Rathskeller wine cellar was dug BY HAND by Jim Ulbrich and offers over 25 selections of wine from around the world. A temperature of 60 degrees is maintained year-round. A massive fireplace mantel and antique furniture display photos of the construction of the building, which took almost 30 years to complete.

The Lazy U Ranch Lodge is now available for use by local Military Base Chaplains and their families, and was built in the 1930s as a typical Guadalupe River Lake House. The interior consists of the original knotty pine wood walls, built-in shelves and original wood floors. The décor consists of family and Texas memorabilia dating back to the mid 1800’s which is displayed throughout the house, and many mounted native Texas animals such as trophy white tail and mule deer, a rattle snake, badger, gray fox and a longhorn head mounted in 1914. In the entry-way can be found numerous photos and medals depicting family and military history, traildriver ancestors and original 1850s travel documents of Jim Ulbrich’s grandparents Marguerite and August Ulbrich.

The SS American Memorial Grounds offers almost two acres of carpet grass on the shaded Guadalupe River and have provided spiritual healing for wounded veterans, active duty military and Americans in need of a place to nourish the soul and body, where fishing, kayaking, rope-swinging and swimming offer therapeutic activities and comradery among troops. The 1,300 square foot “Dock of Freedom” was recently donated and completed on the water’s edge and enables comfortable wheelchair access for our wounded warriors and civilians to fish or simply reflect while enjoying the lake. The old garage is now a pavilion, and a concrete “dance floor” connects the Pavilion, the Lodge and the two-level Memorial building.

This complex is situated on a 101-acre tract of land with over 1,400 running feet of water frontage on Lake Placid/Deadman Creek. This 101-acre tract was part of a 440-acre land grant, purchased by 10 families from Switzerland in 1880. The Swiss Colony failed, but several descendants of Friedrich Naumann (who received the land in return for services as administrator of the Swiss Colony) still reside adjacent to this property and in the Seguin area. Jim and Edie Ulbrich (Seguin school-teachers since the 1950s) purchased the land in 1970 from Elmer Zirkel who was in the tombstone business. The Ulbrich’s daughter Nancy and husband Craig Russell purchased the land in 2004. The property is designated as a Wildlife Management Area. This land and the adjacent land on two sides is the largest undeveloped area on Lake Placid, and represents what is left, virtually unchanged, of the original Swiss Colony land grant.

Today the acreage is under exclusive management by the SS American Memorial Foundation, a 501c3 Not-for-Profit organization. The foundation is managed by an all-volunteer force with 100% of all donations benefitting our nation’s war fighters. There is no paid staff. All use of buildings and grounds for retreats is free of charge.

Home of Mickey Rogers and Richard Wilson, 1343 Quail Lane, Seguin

This Mediterranean-style home was built in 1973 by Herbert and Margaret Woytek and is generally known in the community as “the Woytek house.” After Mrs. Woytek passed away, the house was purchased as an investment and was used as a rental property for several years.

In 2010, Mickey Rogers, who had been living in Mexico City for over 20 years, made the decision to move back to Texas and began the process of looking for a home. After extensive research, she chose Seguin based on the fact that it was a lovely town, an up-and-coming business community and, not unimportantly, close to friends in Cibolo. She looked at several houses in the area but immediately fell in love with the “hacienda house” on Quail Lane.

Shortly after moving into the house, Mickey met across-the-alley neighbors Jeff and Melissa Koehler and began talking to Jeff about updating and personalizing the house. The house already had wonderful features such as a stucco exterior, a lovely courtyard entry with flagstones and wrought iron gates, high ceilings in the living area, and best of all, original parquet flooring. When Mickey bought the house, the seller told her that he had wanted to replace the old carpet in the living room and was surprised and delighted to find the beautiful parquet floor under the old carpet!

The house also had some very dated features, most notable of which was an enormous faux-wood breakfront built around a small window in the dining room. Jeff wasted no time in tearing it out and replacing it with a large new window and a custom-made window seat with storage drawers. Jeff had asked what Mickey’s overall design preferences were, and the answer was color, color and more color. He took that to heart and chose a beautiful shade of turquoise for the walls of the main living areas. That may sound like a shocking color, but Jeff chose exactly the right shade of turquoise and pointed out that turquoise is actually a neutral color, in that there is no color that clashes with it.

Jeff also added several other interesting design upgrades. Two kitchen cabinets were replaced with an open plate rack with a watermelon-colored background, the fireplace was covered with stucco and painted white and a second mantel was added for displaying artwork.

Mickey has an extensive collection of Latin American and Thai art and textiles that she has collected while living and working abroad. She also has paintings and wood sculptures done by her mother, Carol Rogers, who was a well-known artist in Austin. The paintings include a rustic-style oil painting of legendary Austin singer Kenneth Threadgill and his band in the late 1970s, signed by Threadgill and the other band members. The artwork was all redistributed to show it to its best advantage, and the finishing touch was a dried century plant flower stalk that Jeff found by the roadside. He borrowed a truck and hauled the enormous stalk into the living room, where it provides an unusual and beautiful focal point for the room.

A couple of years later, Mickey further updated the house by repainting the office and both bedrooms, installing custom-made wood and marble bathroom vanities and mirrors, and replacing all of the remaining carpet with bamboo flooring.

When Mickey met her husband, Richard, he also loved the house and they decided to stay in it and continue with improvements. Richard’s spring project was to build a beautiful wooden deck off the back porch. This was a priority because the concrete porch dropped off into grassless mud due to the shade provided by the huge Spanish oak in the back. He and Mickey also repainted the exterior of the house in colors designed to work well in our hot climate.

The house is still a work in progress, but the changes have given it new color and character while maintaining the integrity of the original style and design. Mickey and Richard look forward to many more happy years of Quail Lane projects!

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